Landlord & tenant obligations - debt advice overview
Whether you are a landlord or tenant, it is vital that you are aware of your legal rights and obligations. The law protects both parties and does not permit you to 'take the law into your own hands', irrespective of circumstances.
It is important that landlords fully understand their obligations. The Disability Discrimination Act, Sex Discrimination Act and Race Relations Act also apply to anyone letting, selling or managing premises. If you are in doubt about anything seek legal advice.
What is the landlord responsible for?
- repairs to the structure and exterior of the property, heating and hot water installations, basins, sinks, baths and other sanitary installations
- the safety of gas and electrical appliances
- the fire safety of furniture and furnishings provided under the tenancy
- ensuring that the property is fit for habitation
- repairing and keeping in working order the room and water heating equipment
- the common areas in multi-occupancy dwellings
What is the tenant responsible for?
- paying the rent as agreed and taking proper care of the property
- bills for gas electricity, telephone, etc if this was agreed with your landlord
- in most cases, paying the council tax, water and sewerage charges
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Landlord and tenant Debt Advice
Landlord and tenant law is continuously changing.
Our rent debt advice service is skilled at dealing with both the contentious and non contentious aspects of landlord and tenant debt advice and ensure they remain up-to-date with the latest legal developments. They offer clear advice and practical solutions on such matters as:
- lease negotiation
- lease renewal (contested and uncontested)
- rent reviews/rent recovery
- assignments and sub-letting
- landlords' consents
- recovery of possession
- compensation claims
- schedules of dilapidations
- enforcement of covenants
- recovery of service charges
- agricultural tenancies
- leasehold enfranchisements
We can advise you on managing other debts you may have, and give you specialist help and advice.
What will happen if I don’t pay my rent?
Your rent goes to cover the cost of maintaining and managing your home. If we allow some tenants to get away with not paying their rent, the rest of you will suffer because you’re paying for their homes. That is why landlords and housing associations make sure they collect all the rent thry are owed.
Ultimately if you do not pay your rent you may lose your home.
This section shows the different steps we will take if you get into debt.
Most landlords and housing associations charge reasonable rents and take action against people who do not pay.
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I’ve got problems paying my rent. What should I do?
If you have problems paying your rent, you should let your landlord know as soon as you can. Please don’t ignore the problem – it will not go away and if left will only
get worse. We may be able to help you, and the more quickly you contact us the more quickly we can try and help! Please do not be embarrassed to talk to your landlord about your difficulties – everything you tell then will be treated in confidence.
What can you do to help?
- talk through your situation with you to find out how we can help you
- help you agree wit your landlord you how you can pay off your debt at an amount you can afford (we will help write to your landlord to confirm this so you are all clear about what has been agreed)
- advise you on claiming benefits (for example ,we can tell you where to get specialist benefit advice
Westcountry Landlords Association on 01752 242980
Westcountry Landlords Association is a non-profit making organisation run by landlords for landlords.
Formed in 2007, the Association is already proving very popular throughout the westcountry, attracting members from Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Gloucestshire and Bristol. Membership is approaching 500 and is continuing to grow daily.
The Association is run by an enthusiastic team of elected volunteer members who have a wide range of experience in a diversity of professions as well as all being landlords themselves. Our objective is to bring landlords together to share experiences and to provide a platform for landlords to express their views and have their interests represented both locally and nationally.
Helpland on 0845 450 0536
With over 10 years experience in the landlord & tenant eviction industry Helpland Ltd. is a private, professional company specialising in assisting landlords in the eviction of tenants and the collection of rent arrears in England, Scotland & Wales. They act for both private and corporate landlords as well as Letting Agents, Local Authorities and Housing Associations throughout England, Scotland and Wales.
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Pre-court letter for rent debt arrears
If you agree to clear your debt and stick to the agreement, most landlords and housing associations will not take any further action.
However, if the debt continues to increase, they will apply to court. They will write to tell you this. At court the judge will decide what happens.
You could be ordered to pay your weekly rent, plus an amount off the debt, or you could risk losing your home.
Court costs are also added to your debt, meaning that you have to pay more.
Warrant for rent debts
If you do not make the payments you are asked to or leave your home as ordered by the court, you will receive a warrant of possession which allows the landlord or housing association to evict you.
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Eviction for rent debts
The county court bailiff carries out the eviction.
You will still have to pay the debt you owe and may then find it difficult to get another home. Please don’t let it get to this stage. There are plenty of opportunities to sort out problems early on.
Remember: Whatever stage you are at you can stop the process by making an offer that you can afford.
Reminder for rent debts
If you get behind with your rent, the landlord or housing associations will remind you that you owe rent.
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Notice seeking possession for rent debts
If within six weeks, you have not contacted your landlord, or if you at least us six weeks’ rent, you most likely be served a notice seeking possession. This is a legal notice that allows us to take you to court.
You have four weeks to clear your debt before further legal action is takenIf you have not already done so at this point, it is very important that you contact your landlord.
Your landlord or housing association will talk through the situation with you and agree how you can sort out the problem.
This may involve you:
- signing a repayment plan
- applying for benefit or
- chasing outstanding benefit claims
How can I pay off my rent debt?
- Make an agreement with your housing services officer or landlord.
- Offer to pay a reasonable amount each week to pay off the debt.
- Check your entitlement to Housing Benefit.
Remember, even if your rent is paid by Housing Benefit, you are still responsible for paying it.
- If you get Housing Benefit, you can offer to have it paid direct to the landlord or housing association.
- If you get Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you can have part of them paid the landlord or housing association.
- Always prioritise your rent. Whatever other debts you have, if you don’t pay your rent you could lose your home.
- If you get an eviction date, ask for help immediately it isn’t too late.
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Harassment or an Unlawful Eviction for Rent Debts
If harassment or an unlawful eviction takes place outside office hours when the council cannot be contacted, the complaint should initially be made to the police.
As well as being criminal offences, harassment and illegal eviction are also matters which can
be the subject of civil action. This means the tenant can sue the landlord in the civil courts,ie. the County or High Court.
A tenant can apply for the following remedies in the civil courts:
- Injunction - this is a court order which requires the landlord to do or refrain from doing something. For example, an injunction can be obtained to prohibit the landlord from harassing a tenant or where there has been an illegal eviction and no new tenant is in residence, to order the landlord to allow the tenant to move back into the property. A tenant needs to instruct a solicitor to apply for an injunction; this can usually be done fairly quickly. If an injunction is obtained a landlord must comply with it or s/he will be in contempt of court and may be sent to prison.
- Compensation - the tenant may also claim damages for any financial loss suffered as a result of the landlord’s actions, for example to cover the expenses of alternative accommodation or meals. The tenant may also claim damages for general inconvenience and loss of enjoyment.
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Private Tenant Rent Debt & Harassment
All private tenants in debt are protected from acts of harassment and unlawful eviction by both criminal and civil law.
What is harassment?
Harassment is defined as acts which are intended to interfere with the peace and comfort of a tenant or the persistent withdrawal or withholding of services.
Examples of acts of harassment include:
- removing or restricting services such as hot water or electricity or failure by the landlord to pay bills due, resulting in services being cut off;
- entering the property without the tenant’s permission or when the tenant is not there;]
- repeated visits from the landlord without warning;
- offering the tenant money to leave the property;
- threatening behaviour towards the tenant;
- forcing a tenant to sign agreements which reduce their rights;
- starting building works and leaving them unfinished or sending in builders without notice at unsocial hours.
If the motive for any of the above acts is to force the tenant to leave or to prevent him/her from exercising their legal rights, the person carrying out the acts is guilty of a criminal offence. While the harasser may often be either the landlord or someone associated with him/her or both, anyone can be guilty of this offence if they have the required motive.